4 Skills and workforce
COVID-19 has disrupted the economy in many different ways: placing strains on business continuity through the disruption of supplies and supply chain relationships; distorting traditional demand for products; and creating levels of uncertainty which in resource planning terms has had a significant impact on workforce planning and the wider labour market.
While the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has supported the wages of many employees on furlough, the environment for employers to navigate remains challenging. Traditional recruitment methods, travel to work patterns, safe physical distancing in the workplace, and training and development methods have all had to adjust to the new dynamic environment created to cope with the pandemic.
And yet we know that as recovery gains momentum the pressures that existed within the labour market pre-COVID-19 will resurface, with skills shortages exacerbated by redundancies and restrictions on skilled labour from the European Union and by the need to recruit or reskill workforces to deliver a just transition to net zero.
Some sectors and their associated supply chains such as aerospace and oil and gas have been disproportionately impacted by current economic conditions. These sectors will require targeted support measures to help displaced workers to reskill, or to put their highly transferable skills to use in other sectors and other parts of Scotland, and secure alternative employment. This workforce and its expertise are fundamental to meeting Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets and ensuring people are supported to benefit from the transition to net zero, whilst protecting those at risk in the transition.
We need to respond to these factors now and in the future. In the short-term, we need to ensure that employers are fair and mitigate potential detrimental behaviour. In the medium to long-term we need to provide a platform for strong and confident recovery through the provision of agile and effective labour market interventions. We need to harness our available resources and provide confidence to increase investment in recruitment and workforce development that will aid recovery and strengthen organisational resilience. We will work in collaboration with businesses to support workforce skilling and training as part of a just transition to a more resilient sector.
- Encourage employers to utilise the range of available incentives to retain, adopt and recruit apprentices, to mitigate the current disruption, maintain a robust future skills pipeline and promote progressive Fair Work practices across the manufacturing sector.
- Adapt existing and develop new learning models to address the hiatus in traditional recruitment channels, for e.g. Apprenticeship Pathways and Host Employer Models.
- Work with partners to develop a strategic support programme for sectors adversely impacted by the pandemic, to support displaced workers and to maximise and enhance their existing skillsets for jobs in growth sectors.
- Work collaboratively within the ‘One Scotland Team’ to inform the skills priorities for the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan (CESAP).
- Through NMIS and the Manufacturing Skills Academy provide innovative and agile skills interventions to enable employers to respond to the emerging needs of new technologies and workplace practices, supporting businesses and creating higher skills provision for individuals.
- Develop a skills partnership programme to support regional and cluster development and promote collaborative models of workforce and leadership. This should also develop and foster agile communities of practice to support Fair Work and deliver future skills requirements.
- Establish fast-track employment models to address emerging skill shortages and jobs growth.
- Initiate actions to mitigate the debilitating impact of graduate unemployment, creating meaningful work experience, education, training and employment opportunities across the manufacturing sector to optimise graduate talent.
- In partnership, develop learning experiences to promote and enhance commercial awareness, foster enterprising behaviours and encourage progressive leadership practice within our manufacturing sector.
The appliance of science gives Borders employment a boost
Kelso-based Scotmas has taken on ten modern apprenticeships to support its business growth and boost local employment.
The disinfection specialists received a grant from South of Scotland Enterprise through the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund in the summer of 2020 which allowed the firm to retool and adapt their business to supply the growing demands for high-level disinfectants.
As a result, ten additional jobs were created within the company – all of which were filled by local people recently made redundant.
Scotmas is working with Forth Valley College to place all the new-starts on a two-year Modern Apprenticeship in Scientific, Technical and Formulation Technology. The qualification – developed with support from Skills Development Scotland and in partnership with industry – allows new employees to develop specialist skills and knowledge, whilst at the same time gaining vital in-work experience.
The apprentices will benefit from using new remote learning tools and a bespoke training suite with full videoconferencing and digital connectivity capabilities, thanks to recent investments made by the company.
Alistair Cameron, CEO at Scotmas, said:
“Thanks to the latest technology, we have been able to partner with Forth Valley College to deliver world-class, SQA-accredited training to our staff entirely on-site.
“The commitment shown by our workforce – especially in the last six months to meet the demands from customers such as the NHS and social care providers – has been first class. At Scotmas we have a responsibility to ensure that they have access to opportunities to upskill and develop their careers.
“The support from South of Scotland Enterprise and partners has been key in helping us adapt and retool our business and create these new jobs at a crucial time for the South of Scotland economy.”